Spiritual Meaning of EXODUS 17:7
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AC 8586. Verse 7. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the sons of Israel, and because of their tempting Jehovah, saying, Is Jehovah in the midst of us, or not? "And he called the name of the place Massah," signifies the quality of the state of the temptation; "and Meribah," signifies the quality of the complaining; "because of the quarreling of the sons of Israel," signifies a complaining from the grievousness of the temptation even so that they nearly yielded; "and because of their tempting Jehovah," signifies that it was against the Divine whose aid they despair of; "saying, Is Jehovah in the midst of us?" signifies that they almost believed that the Lord does not bring aid to His own.

AC 8587. And he called the name of the place Massah. That this signifies the quality of the state of the temptation, is evident from the signification of "name" and of "calling by name," as being the quality (n. 144, 145, 1754, 1896, 2009, 2628, 2724, 3006, 3421, 6674, 6887); and from the signification of "the place," as being the state (n. 2625, 2837, 3356, 3387, 4321, 4882, 5606, 7381). That the quality of the state of the temptation is meant, is because temptation is the subject treated of; the quality of the state of it is signified by "Massah." Moreover in the original tongue "Massah" means "temptation." Its quality will be described in what now follows.

AC 8588. And Meribah. That this signifies the quality of the complaining, is evident from the fact that in the original tongue "Meribah" means "contention," or "quarreling," and "quarreling" signifies complaining (n. 8563, 8566); and because names signify the quality of the thing (n. 8587), therefore "Meribah" here signifies the quality of the complaining. As regards this temptation itself and its quality, be it known that in this passage are described those who in temptations almost yield, namely, those who complain against heaven and also against the Divine Itself, and at last almost disbelieve in the Divine Providence. These things are signified in the internal sense by what precedes, and also by what follows in this verse, namely, the quality of the state of the temptation, which is signified by "Massah," and the quality of the complaining in the temptation, which is signified by "Meribah." That this quality is here signified by "Meribah," is plain in David:--

Thou calledst upon Me in distress, and I rescued thee; I answered thee in the secret place, I proved thee at the waters of Meribah (Ps. 81:7)

[2] But in the internal historical sense, in which the subject treated of is the state of religion with the Israelitish nation, that nation is described in respect to its quality toward Jehovah, namely, that they were not willing by supplication to entreat Him for aid, but that they expostulated. The reason was, that at heart they did not acknowledge Jehovah as the supreme God, but only in the mouth, when they saw the miracles. That at heart they did not acknowledge Him is very evident from the Egyptian calf which they made for themselves and worshiped, saying that these were their gods; also from their frequent apostasy (n. 8301). This is what is here described in the internal historical sense; but in the internal spiritual sense is described the quality of the temptation with those who before they are liberated are brought to the last of temptation.

[3] That the quality of the Israelitish nation and of its religiosity is described by contention with Moses at Massah and Meribah, is also evident in the following passages:--

Harden not your heart, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, where your fathers tempted Me; they tempted Me, and saw My work; for forty years did I feel loathing at the generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and the same have not known My ways, to whom I sware in Mine anger that they should not come unto My rest (Ps. 95:8-11).

Ye shall not tempt Jehovah your God, as ye tempted Him in Massah (Deut. 6:16; 9:22, 24).

Of Levi he said, Thy Thummim and thy Urim are with the Holy Man, whom thou didst tempt at Massah, with whom thou didst contend at the waters of Meribah (Deut. 33:8);

"the Holy Man" here denotes the Lord, whom they tempted, and whom Moses and Aaron did not sanctify.

[4] In the internal historical sense, in which the subject treated of is the religiosity of the Israelitish nation, by Moses and Aaron is not represented truth Divine, but the religiosity of that nation whose leaders and heads they were (n. 7041). Because this religiosity was such as said above, it was intimated to them that they should not bring the people into the land of Canaan, as is written in the book of Numbers:--

Jehovah said unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye have not believed in Me, and sanctified Me in the eyes of the sons of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them; these are the waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel contended with Jehovah (Num. 20:12, 13; 27:14).

Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall not come into the land which I have given to the sons of Israel, because ye rebelled against My mouth at the waters of Meribah (Num. 20:24).

The same is said of Moses (Deut. 32:50, 51).

[5] That still representative Divine worship was instituted with that nation, was because representative worship could be instituted with any nation that had holy externals of worship, and worshiped almost idolatrously; for what is representative does not regard the person, but the thing (n. 1361), and it was the genius of that nation, beyond any other nation, to worship merely external things as holy and Divine, without any internal; as for instance to worship as deities their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and afterward Moses and David, and moreover to account holy and as Divine, and to worship, every stone and every piece of wood that had been inaugurated in their Divine worship; as the arks, the tables therein, the lamp, the altar, the garments of Aaron, the Urim and Thummim, and afterward the temple. Of the Lordís Providence there was then given a communication of the angels of heaven with man by means of such things. For there must needs be somewhere a church, or the representative of a church, in order that there may be communication of heaven with the human race; and as that nation, beyond any other nation, could make Divine worship consist in external things, and thus act the representative of a church, therefore that nation was taken.

[6] At that time communication with the angels in heaven was effected by means of representatives in the following way. Their external worship was communicated to angelic spirits who are simple, and who do not reflect upon internal things, but still are interiorly good. Such are they who in the Grand Man correspond to the outer skin. These pay no attention whatever to the internal of man, but only to his external. If this appears holy, they think holily of the internal also. The more interior angels of heaven saw in those spirits the things that were represented, consequently the heavenly and Divine things that corresponded; for they could be present with these spirits, and see those things; but not with the men except by means of the spirits. For angels dwell with men in things interior; but where there are no such things, they dwell in the interior things of simple spirits; for the angels have no interest in other than spiritual and heavenly things, which are the interior things contained in representatives. From these few words it can be seen how there could be communication with heaven by means of such a people. But see what has been previously shown on this subject, namely: That with the Jews the holy of worship was miraculously elevated into heaven quite apart from them (n. 4307): That whatever their quality might be, the descendants of Jacob could represent what is holy, provided they closely observed the rituals commanded (n. 3147, 3479, 3480, 3881, 4208, 4281, 4288, 4289, 4293, 4307, 4444, 4500, 4680, 4825, 4844, 4847, 4899, 4912, 6304, 6306, 7048, 7051, 8301).

AC 8589. Because of the quarreling of the sons of Israel. That this signifies a complaining from the grievousness of the temptation even so that they nearly yielded, is evident from the signification of "quarreling," as being a grievous complaining (n. 8563); that it denotes that they nearly yielded, is evident from the character of their quarreling, namely, that they had almost stoned Moses, and that they tempted Jehovah, saying, Is Jehovah in the midst of us?

AC 8590. And because of them tempting Jehovah. That this signifies that it was against the Divine, whose aid they despair of, is evident from what was said above (n. 8567), where are the same words.

AC 8591. Saying, Is Jehovah in the midst of us? That this signifies that they almost believed that the Lord does not bring aid to His own, is evident without explication.

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Author:  E. Swedenborg (1688-1772). Design:  I.J. Thompson, Feb 2002. www.BibleMeanings.info